tv Brookings Institution on U.S. Russia China Relations CSPAN June 4, 2019 7:06am-8:46am EDT
how noted presidential historians ranked the best and worst chief executives from george washington to barack obama. explore the life events that shaped our leaders, challenges they face in legacies they have left behind. c-span's the presidents is available as an hardcover or e-book today at c-span or wherever books are sold. >> a look at the global influence of russia and china and implications for relations with the us. a forum at the brookings institution focused on america's military strength and comparisons between the obama and trump administration's approach to the two countries.
>> good morning, welcome to brookings. i'm michael o'hanlon and here to welcome you to a discussion about possible wartime scenarios with russia and or china. this panel has a lot of expertise on the subjects. i will introduce folks in a minute and hand the baton to my good friend and colleague jung pak who will pose questions to the panelists. we will talk among ourselves for the first part of this event and then go to you. to allow me to use my new book, risking great power of war over small stakes as the springboard for this discussion but only the springboard in the conversation will range more lively. let me say a brief word before introducing them. just so you know, where are starting point is in this
project and this conversation today i think back to something my good friend lieutenant general john whistler said when he was head of the third expeditionary force in okinawa, senior marine and one of the most senior american military officers in the western pacific, charles whistler sends regards, he was going to be on this panel and had a conflict but he is still here in spirit. he was asked by a reporter at a forum in washington when he was visiting from okinawa, what would the united states and japan do if one day we woke up and saw chinese forces ashore on one of the islands they claim japan and china both claim them. the us government has no position on whose islands they should be but we respect and recognize japan's current administration of the islands, whatever it means to administer islands where no one lives and nothing happens. we consider the us-japan mutual security committee to apply to
those islands which means american lives are on the line in defense of those japanese claims if and when the islands are attacked and the only possible attacker would be china. we could imagine a great path to power over war over uninhabited worthless rocks with all due respect who care about them for spiritual reasons. they are not big enough to qualify with their own economic zones. it is about symbolism and history which is enough to make the issue potent in japan/china relations and when general whistler said we could take those islands back i can also think of ways we might deal with the problem without landing anyone ashore and he was sufficiently subtle, didn't get himself in hot water, he gave the right answer for an american officer in that position but he was implicitly threatening we could bomb the chinese troop emplacements in
order to deal with that threat and that raised the general question of how do you deal with russian or chinese attacks against pieces of territory, could even be a tiny farming town in eastern estonia or latvia, majority russian speaker but within the estonian and latvian territory where there is a threat to its own fellow russian speakers and goes to protect them and it is not the town or that particular defense of those russian speakers who would like to live in estonia and latvia rather than russia but the real goal is to disrupt and threaten nato by making allies debate how to respond to this threat not knowing if any military response would be in order even though it would seem the nato article 5 pledge would require a military response and if
russia or china are intent on disrupting us alliances to the global order what better way than to do one of these provocative attacks that put us in the dilemma of having to draw first blood? there's the question of deterrence and the question of what should we do if deterrence fails and we wind up in a war? to finish this intro and segue into the panel because a lot of thought a written about these kinds of questions and we feel as a group it is time to kickstart these debates into higher gear when the us national defense strategy says competition with russia and china are our top national security concerns and we haven't had a detailed conversation about how war with russia or china could really happen that is plausible and addresses the most concerning scenarios. jung pak will have in order of how to ask questions of the panelists that i will work from my right.
tom ehrhardt is one of the best thinkers in the country on where military technology and operational planning intersect. how you use current and future concepts and weapons of war to plausibly win conflict if you wind up in them but ideally to deter them before they begin. a lot of this work inside the government, he was an important player in many debates during the obama years on the third offset which many of you will remember, the precursor to the trump administration's defense strategy to put conventional and great power deterrence back on the forefront of american national security policy after it had fallen off of that forefront for the first 25 years of the post-cold war era. to tom's right is clayton talmage who was sent to brookings from media work. we got to know her 12 years ago as a postdoc fellow and moved
on to academia and is at georgetown university as a professor, one of the finest defense dollars in the country. i call her one of the youngest young event scholars because she is young but no longer needs that qualification in terms of where she stands and her contributions to the field. her book the dictators is one of the best books written in security studies and most widely recognized in the last few years. in the last 2 or 3 years she has focused on the question of escalation in mores that could begin as limited damages involving the united states and china and the western pacific so delighted to welcome her to -- one of the phd in recent years going back to these documents and understanding
chinese thought over the years including current font on how they would wage war, how they see the future of great power competition in the kinds of ways they might respond to anything we do or initiate conflict in a war in the western pacific. russia's particular expertise is on china and frank rose, what i will say about frank as he was hired into a job many of us think of or historically thought of as one of the arms control positions or the main arms-control position at brookings but that is not how frank thinks of himself. he thinks of himself as a strategic planner. it is fair to say where arms-control is an element of american strategy, the best way to wonderscore that is frank is one of the few people in washington who has been knighted in the country of romania. you might ask why. it is not because he helped kill transylvanian ghosts back in some battle unless he has even more of a rich repertoire
and accomplishments that i'm aware. it is because he was instrument linda missile-defense arrangement he built with the romanian and earlier administrations so very much a person who knows how to combine tools of warfare with tools of arms-control land been particularly riveted on strategic issues of cyber nuclear weapons, and other kinds of central elements of the us military nervous system that are among the most vulnerable and important in this era of great power competition. thank you for listening to my long introduction. i will handed over to jung pak who in addition to be our korea chair wrote best visited as they of all of 2018. the book on the same topic, i hope with the same title coming out next year and we hope that the movie not long to follow. that is my goal and without further do, over to you. >> frank is also called sad man in korea because he was
responsible for the deployment to south korea so in the south korean pronunciation he is called sad man but not always in a good way. speaking of younger, you would never know this is mike o'hanlon's 22nd book and he is only 35 years old. it is an amazing feat for someone of his youth and vigor and to squeeze that accomplishment over a short time i would also say this book which is great is conveniently available around the corner by the front door of the lobby at our brookings bookstore so thank you to our panelists for including me in this conversation. when this he went went out, the announcement went out and it sold out very quickly, the room was filled to capacity very quickly and i got a frantic note from a friend of mine who said you got to get me in and
what is it about conflict scenarios with russia or china that is so compelling and alarming and unable to draw a large crowd, this morning to brookings on a beautiful spring or summer day. i would like to start by asking the panelists there is a sense of urgency and alarm given what mike said about the national security strategy and national defense strategy and american military power eroding while russian and chinese capabilities are improving. i would like to ask our panelists to unpack why this issue is so, has been, has been taking up so much space and energy and scholarship on this
particular issue. i asked frank, that man, first. >> thanks, it is great to be here and to be with the colleagues on the panel. fundamentally i think we are at a end of an era. i just read an article in the financial times, the two, 1989s, berlin 1989 and tiananmen square 1989. what this article was saying, 30 years ago we thought berlin was the future but 30 years on down it looks like tiananmen square was the pivot point and i think we are in an era of great power competition. i disagree with the trump administration on many things but this is one where i think they get the diagnosis correct.
more importantly, i think a lot of people in the us strategic community have not come to terms with this, the us overwhelming conventional superiority that existed in 1990s and 2000s, russia and china have essentially achieved conventional superiority on parity under some scenarios. this is something i have been watching closely. they are developing asymmetric capabilities like cyber and anti-satellite weapons designs to undermine america's and its allies conventional capabilities. all you have to do is read the director of national intelligence annual threat assessment that talks about this. for example, this year, china and russia are training and
equipping their military space forces in fielding new anti-satellite weapons to hold us and allied space services at risk. with regards to cyber he said, quote, china, russia, iran, and north korea increasingly used cyber operations to threaten machines in an expanding number of ways to steal information, to influence our citizens and disrupt our critical infrastructure. my bottom line is this. we need to think differently because over the last 25 years we have been talking about the end of history the russians and the chinese have been watching very closely how the united states and its allies fight and have been designing specific capabilities to undermine that superiority. this is a real present threat and we need to take action if
we are going to deal with it. >> what do you think? >> thanks again. for the invitation to be on this panel. i'm glad to be joined by such distinct colleagues. i completely agree with what frank said. a little bit of detail on china specific elements of it. three things have changed in recent years. one is us awareness the power competition is here, the second is china absence of ambition and all of these changes about a specific moment. the first one, we have this in our strategy document that great power competition is back but great power competition never ended. going back to 1989 one of my favorite quotes, by 1989, quite hostile in his rhetoric after 1989, the cold war had ended
but two cold wars had begun. essentially both of those were directed against china. what kind of cold war began, it was going to be much more complicated involving a mix of economic engagement but really a lot of hedging. that brings me to the second point, china's give abilities have changed, it is recent that it has gotten agreement tension. and whatever it about for a long time. and the defense posture in the region. and by the end of the cold war, and it needed to have capabilities to deter the united states from intervening in regional conflict. including the soviets as rich chinese discourse to keep us
carriers at risk and they decided to emulate those capabilities. and the final thing that has changed is china's ambitions of expanded. china as of 2014 the largest economy by purchasing power of not that particular metric, 70% of us gdp and major us adversaries going back 100 years. one coalition crossed 60% of us gdp which makes the scale of the challenge particularly large with chinese right about that underlies ambitions, a larger belief that the united states is distracted and we contenders opportunities not only regionally got it globally. i look forward to talking about that as the discussion continues. >> thank you for the opportunity to be on the panel
with all of you. for those that have not read the book i commend it because it highlights a great answer to the question jung pak posed which is what has changed? mike nailed the essence of the strategic problem the united states faces which is there are nuclear armed powers we engaging in appear go of competition and could end up in a potentially high intensity crisis or large-scale conventional war that has real possibilities for escalation including to the nuclear level in ways the united states really has forgotten about from the cold war. a couple of panelists highlighted when the cold war ended the united states looked out at the horizon and thought we are in a new permanent state of affairs where the united states has conventional military dominance and we don't have to worry about major competitors including nuclear
armed competitors. from the vantage point of today looking back at that period the last 20 or 30 years seem less like a new normal and more an interlude. we really are seeing a return not in the identical form but a return in terms of the main features of a very real prospect that nuclear weapons could potentially get into conflict. that raises questions the united states had the luxury of ignoring for the last 20 or 30 years. for the last couple decades the united states has largely conducted military operations all over the world without having to put much thought into the question of potential adversaries nuclear responses, the united states conducted military operations exclusively against states that have not had nuclear weapons. questions such as how might the united states calibrated conventional military strategy to control escalation or play
into a larger strategic deterrent game have been off the table and mike's book showed how those considerations have to come back into american grand strategy and i will highlight in particular as the united states thinks about designing its response to crisis situations or conventional wars, you have to think about the prospect that in a large-scale crisis or conventional war adversaries might be tempted to turn to their nuclear weapons and that could occur in some different ways. i'm sure we will talk about some of those today but to get two quick examples, one that i have highlighted is large-scale us conventional military operations do have the potential to threaten the security and survivability of adversary nuclear forces and this is because us conventional capability can undermine the
control of adversarial nuclear forces and can undermine the conventional forces that support or enable and protect adversary nuclear forces and this is made more difficult by the fact that adversaries like russia and china intermingle component of the conventional and nuclear forces which make it difficult for the united states not to post some infringement on those forces in the fourth of conventional war. with that we do aeschylus or a pressure? that is an important question. i would note if we are going through cold war playbook, what might be relevant from that era we don't want to overstate that. in the cold war, in nato, adopted through nato, a strategy of explicit first use of nuclear weapons, and china has a no first use policy russia does not.
an adversary facing large-scale us conventional military operations as a way out of that problem. we need look no further than nato's own history, we will get into more of that today. >> thank you for inviting me to this group. michael's book brought us together because we are unanimously grateful that he did his usual comprehensive job of giving us a primer on the strategic situation and i would like as caitlin did, urge you
to read through this book. the o'hanlon encryption, he writes a book that in dc is as good as encrypted because not many people will read it. but the people -- the people who came to the census and to a presentation like this, you should be different and that means read it and i will ask you to read not just the introduction and conclusion and all that but appendices we might get to the talk specifically about military, technical, elements of this world which we will get to in the discussion that makes this different.
i will talk a little bit about russia the geopolitical situation, the military technical situation is different and ominous in my view from an excel story point of view and the stability point of view and a few things i want to give as food for thought that have to do with why we are here and why a book like this is needed and why you need to read it. what i call the pathologies of victory, we are suffering path policy from the effect that we won the cold war and won it rather decisively, and defies
logic, why doesn't go more kinetic so it is a beautiful thing but now we are suffering from these pathologies and let me list four for you and then go for the red side and talk about their matching orientations that makes this a dangerous strategic competition was our four pathologies, there are many more but i would like to talk about triumphalism, we are the victors. triumphalism has you patting yourself on the back and doing things that ignore, we went on what i call a strategy hiatus, we decided to take a vacation strategy, strategy did not take a vacation from us. triumphalism. number 2, distraction. distracted by 9/11 in many ways with counterinsurgency and occupation duty and counterterrorism and all that, sort of really caused a major
distraction in the organization are mostly with, the department of defense and this was highlighted by the national defense strategy. number 3, a general lack of analytic different sophistication when it comes to major adversaries, russia and china, china we tried to ignore for the longest period of time. russia we just dropped the ball. we had a massive massive analytical underpinning to our approach toward trying to understand russia. and it basically hit the floor. most of the russian analysts went to the intelligence community, counterinsurgency or counterterrorism or they retired. i was given the job in 2015 to fix russia. that is to say fix the intelligence community and the part of the fence lack of
analytical depth, sophistication and longitudinal learning, we had a 15 year gap to fill in so i set up the duty of doing that. it is a big problem and we have people here who haven't been doing that. number 4, number 4, the biggest half apology, wishful thinking. when you think you are the victor and have triumphalism you try to explain everything away, wishful thinking, when we are dealing with the rise of major power competitors, let me give you the other side of those things when it comes to china and russia. instead of triumphalism they are both operating under a humiliation narrative.
a very powerfully humiliation narrative, the united states and they are coming back, great societies, great people. they deserve to be on top and they are coming back, a powerful motivational factor. as opposed to distraction they have laserlike concentration on the us and everything we've been doing. we have been marauding around in this period of time showing them our stuff, they have been watching it like a hawk. the asymmetry of focus is a bad strategic competitive environment for the united states. instead of ignoring read like we have been doing they have been deeply looking into what the united states does. its history, its weaknesses, the nature of the way it competes and ways to try to unpack our strategy. instead of wishful thinking i
generally find them to be extremely pragmatic. as a strategist many times i find myself wishing i could write strategy for the prc or russia because i would be allowed to say things you have to say, hard things, pragmatic things, things that typify what the strategic environment entails. they write like that. they write very clearly. they talk about the enemy, the hegemon which is us. we are left with all kinds of weasel words. distractions that play into our wishful thinking of that cause us to not be as sharp a competitor as we need to be. with that, that is how we got to where we are today and why this book is so important and i hope we can get to those in the
discussion. >> something, the other side of the question, thank you to the panelists, why hasn't anything happened yet? there have been some incursions and aggressiveness but seems to me russia and china do value some regional stability or strategic stability with the united states to help them push their objectives forward. i would like to ask the